Clean regeneration

by Mark A. DeSorbo

Resin recycler duplicates ISO Class 6 plant in Taiwan

One's junk can be another's treasure, and spent resins of chip, microelectronics, pharmaceuticals and flat panel display manufacturers have indeed proven to be a lucrative business for many in the ultra-pure water market.

“We take the resin from facilities, and we deal with the toxins and the wastewater,” says Thomas Heredia, global director of water services for Ionics Inc. (Watertown, MA). “Rather than the customer spending the money for an on-site regeneration system, we do it for them at our plants.”

Ionics, a manufacturer of membranes, equipment and services for water purification, recently ramped up its resin regeneration capabilities with the expansion of its existing 35,550-square-foot ultra-pure water factory in Taoyuan, Taiwan. The expansion includes a 700-square-foot ISO Class 6 cleanroom and is identical to its resin regenerations facilities in San Jose, CA, and Phoenix, AZ.

Regardless of the type of manufacturing process, regenerating resin for maintaining ultra-pure water quality can be a costly expense for industries recycling the compound in house.

Heredia says expanding the Taoyuan facility was indeed strategic because of Taiwan's booming semiconductor, microelectronics, pharmaceutical, biotech and power industries. He declined to elaborate on the cost of the 11-month-long project, but did say it was completed on time and within budget. Details on the cleanroom equipment and components—air handling and recovery equipment, etc.—were also unavailable.

“We are very pleased that through investments in service facilities such as this, Ionics will be able to support our clients' requirements for ultra-pure water around the globe,” says Arthur L. Goldstein, chairman and CEO.

Resin regeneration involves the chemical restoration of cation and anion resins. The use of off-site regeneration facilities, Heredia explains, eliminates the need for manufacturers to use caustic and acid regenerating chemicals, which contribute to wastewater generation.

The company essentially cleans and refurbishes megaflows; 45-cubic-foot vessels, which resemble helium tanks and contain ion exchange resin, a component that makes water pure enough to process such products as microchips.

“All of the high-purity piping that goes into the ultra-pure water system is also protected within the cleanroom. Resin regeneration is not done in a cleanroom, but the decontamination and replacement of the plumbing and piping of megaflows is,” Heredia says, adding that the facility has the capacity to regenerate 265 cubic feet of resin per day. “The replacement parts—piping, valves and the vessels themselves—are wrapped, contamination-free and made of different materials like polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), stainless steel and polypropylene.”

Concentrating its efforts on ultra-pure water, Ionics does not accept any type of material that could cross-contaminate.

“We do not regenerate waste streams or resin that have collected heavy metals, so we eliminate any threat of cross-contamination,” Heredia adds.

Cleanroom personnel are fully gowned and are also required to wear gloves and masks. The facility also produces its own semiconductor-grade water, or E1, which is used in the regeneration process as well as rinsing within the cleanroom.

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At the time of this report, Ionics had just broken ground on a facility just outside of Shanghai, which will follow the same blueprint for its facilities in Taiwan, San Jose and Phoenix.

With resin regeneration facilities in San Jose, CA, and Phoenix, AZ, Ionics Inc., a Watertown, MA-based manufacturer of water purification equipment, had to look no further than the blueprints of its existing facilities when it ramped up its regeneration capabilities at a facility in Taoyuan, Taiwan.
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